Cultural Bishops For Aboriginal and Islander Peoples

The Consecration of the Rt Revd Arthur Malcom,
first bishop of the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia.

Allen Brent of the was responsible for laying the theological foundations for the creation of bishops in Australia whose superintending ministry was focused on cultures rather than territories. Thus . His argument is set out in his book on Cultural Episcopacy.

Following the historic resolution of the Synod of the Diocese of North Queensland (1985), the Rt Revd. Arthur Malcom was consecrated as first bishop of the Aboriginal People of Australia. His successor today is Rt Revd James Leftwich.


Brent developed a theme that linked the sacramental character of the threefold Order (Bishop, Priests, and Deacon) to the concept of ministerial figures as iconic representatives of the saving acts in a community in process of redemption.The Church as the extension of the incarnation implies that a redeemed community will exhibit that fact in terms of incarnation in culture. The events leading to the decision to consecrate a bishop in terms of such a theology were attended by some phenomena remiscent of medieval miracles.

Some children were playing in school at Yarraba painting leaves that they pressed together and pulled apart. When they did so, they saw the face of Christ in the leaf. Thus was proclaimed 'the day that king Jesus came to Yarraba.' There was of course in our European, Elightenment perspective considerable criticism of this development, reminiscent of medieval cults and 'superstition.' In Brent's opinion, expressed in a speech to the Syndon of the Anglican Church of North Queensland, such criticism missed the point. The figure of Christ bears identifiable Aboriginal features, and portrays a Christ that comes wearing the flesh and blood of Aboriginal humanity. "The Word was made flesh" in human cultures and therefore ministerial order that represents an iconography of the divine will inevitably be partially expressed in a cultural form.